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Consumer Electronics

IFA 2014: Innovation a lucrative business at Berlin electronics fair

The global consumer electronics segment depends on a steady flow of innovations, no matter whether TV sets, smartphones or tablets. Berlin's IFA trade fair will once again help boost Christmas shopping.

IFA technology show begins in Berlin

Berlin's IFA is one of the world's top trade shows for consumer electronics and home appliances. This year it turns 90 - and organizers and exhibitors are in a buoyant mood at the city's exhibition ground.

Floorspace is sold out despite a 3-percent expansion. The striking new "CityCube" congress center brings the fair to a total of 150,000 square meters (1.6 million square feet).

Some 250,000 million visitors are expected to attend the event this year, lured by the chance to see exciting new technology on display. More than half of them will be trade visitors interested in either selling their products or ordering the latest gadgets. It's here at the IFA that important deals for the Christmas shopping period are struck.

Gfu, a German consumer and home electronics industry group, expects this year's fair to result in contracts worth 4 billion euros ($5.3 billion).

"All the necessary preconditions for a good show are in place," Gfu Supervisor Board Chairman Hans-Joachim Kamp said. "This is because consumers are very confident about the future and willing to spend money on larger items in the months ahead."

Increasing turnover

Around 20 percent of Germans plan to buy new smartphones by the end of this year, Kamp said, with many more having set their sights on tablets, TVs, digital cameras, docking stations and audio streaming devices.

"We're talking about millions of households and millions in revenue, reflecting positive market developments," he noted.

In a European comparison, it's the Germans who are particularly keen to buy novelties. This helped the industry notch up a 1.9-percent increase in turnover to 12.6 billion euros in the first half of 2014. Gfu pundits believe that the surge in full-year turnover could come in at 2.6 percent.

Samsung smart watch

Wearables like this Samsung smart watch are still far from being a hit with everyone

Big screens all the rage

Kamp even sees an improvement for the battered flatscreen television business. Not least because of this year's soccer World Cup, TV producers were able to shift some 4 million sets in the first six months in Germany. In addition, there are still some 10 million old tube TVs in German households, and 10 percent of all TVs are older than seven years, Kamp said.

"Innovation provides a bigger push than a sporting event," he maintains. "High on the list of consumers' priorities are ever larger screens and HD or even ultra-HD resolution."

Interconnected living rooms

Kamp says Internet-enabled devices are also a big topic again at the show, as is consumers' ability to access TV content in special online multimedia libraries. And despite interconnected devices, Germans still spend an average four hours per day in front of the TV screen.

"TV sets are not out of vogue and will continue to be found in living rooms," Kamp said, pointing to the devices' ability to interact with tablets and smartphones.

Overall, some 46 million Internet-enabled devices will be sold in Germany this year, a 12-percent surge over last year's sales figures. Half of the devices in question will be smartphones, followed by TVs and tablets. Sales of music-streaming devices will double this year.

About to make inroads are so-called wearables - portable computerized watches and fitness activity trackers in the form of wrist straps. But the Gfu says there are not yet any reliable market forecasts for these gadgets.

More convenient kitchens?

The IFA also provides a glimpse of more down-to-earth household appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers, refrigerators and baking ovens, which have become increasingly high-tech. That specific industry segment expects a turnover of 7.3 billion euros in Germany throughout 2014.

Gfu Supervisory Board Chairman Hans-Joachim Kamp

Kamp claims there's something for every taste at this year's IFA show

"It's also about innovation, everything that makes life easier and provides more amenities," Kamp says.

Consumers are interested in extremely energy-efficient appliances, but they don't see any harm in them being cheap and reliable to boot. Right now, only very few care about their household appliances being remotely controlled by smartphones, or whether or not they are Internet-enabled.

Control capabilities are more desired when it comes to heating systems, air conditioning or lighting with a view to saving energy and providing more convenience and safety in households.

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